Meet the Pro Sports Stadium That Won't Make Your City Go Broke


If you’re a Strong Towns advocate who lives in a North American city with a professional sports team, chances are that team’s stadium isn’t exactly your favorite local development—even if you’re the loudest one cheering on game days. That’s because in too many of our places, stadiums have become synonymous with silver-bullet thinking in our city governments, and that means hefty tax incentives, dubious job creation claims, and humongous, urban-fabric-destroying parking lots. There’s increasing evidence that no recent stadium project has delivered the promised return on investment in a major North American city—and that’s before franchise owners pack up their teams for a whole new city and leave their expensive city-owned mega-arena to sit empty (cough cough *St. Louis Rams* cough).

But that might be about to change. And it’s all starting in an unexpected place: Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Today on Upzoned, we bring you the story of the Halifax Wanderers Football Club (that’s rest-of-the-world football, not US football), and what the franchise owners did when it was time to give their team a new home. Instead of cratering their downtown for an underground parking garage and pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the ground in the form of flashy, quickly-outdated amenities, the Wanderers built their Grounds with a much more humble plan in mind. They started with simple shipping containers to delineate the border of the stadium, removable bleachers offering just 6,000 seats, and a city price tag of exactly $0. (Well, the city helps cut the grass—a privilege for which the team pays rent.) The result? Tickets are selling out every game, and with their proof of concept delivered, the team is thinking of adding more, and maybe making a few other elements of their quasi-temporary stadium permanent.

We heard about this project from a great article in the Toronto Star, and were delighted to learn that the author of the piece was… Strong Towns member Tristan Cleveland! So we asked him to join host Kea for an in-depth talk on how other cities can learn from the Halifax’s inspiring new stadium, as well as what Strong Towns means for Canadians, how Tristan’s day job at the incredible Happy City organization, and much more.

Then in the Downzone, we talk about our recent reads: The Honest Truth about Dishonesty by Dan Ariely, which delivers some surprising insights on how lying impacts our built environments, and Samuel Johnson’s Eternal Return by Martin Riker, which decidedly doesn’t, but is still a really great novel about what a father will do to be with his son, even after death.

Side note: we apologize that the audio on this podcast is a little less awesome than usual! We had to record on Skype, rather than our usual platform; we choose to blame the Canadian internet.

Additionally, we apologize to the Tampa Bay Rays, whom Kea mis-identified as the team ridiculous enough to put exotic fish aquariums in the backs of their bleacher seats. That would be the Marlins, and it was actually their home plate backstop. Anyway, go Rays.

Top photo via Creative Commons